By now, utilities and consumers are well aware of the rampant theft of copper wire and cable for resale. As copper prices remain high ($3.65 per pound as of this writing), the temptation to steal copper has become more attractive and more profitable to the thieves. Not only are the lives of the thieves in danger, but there is an even greater risk for outages on the power grid and to communications networks.
In this video, thieves tried stealing copper wire from a Missouri power substation, but instead caused an explosion that landed a person in the hospital and knocked out power to some 2,000 customers. Last month, 15 employees of the Long Island Rail Road were arrested for allegedly stealing copper wire from railroad facilities.
In my travels around the globe, I have noticed a universal concern with copper theft and how it must be addressed. Some companies try to disguise copper grounding wires and cables, while others laser-etch source codes on their cables. Some have even mixed steel wires or tinned copper with the strands of their copper cables to prevent theft. In reality, utilities want a solution that costs the same or less than copper, but that has no value to the thieves.
CommScope’s award-winningGroundSmart® Copper Clad Steel solution uses a time-tested technology of metallurgically bonding copper and steel to produce a grounding solution that performs to the same specifications as solid copper. So, why would a utility deploy GroundSmart instead of solid copper? Here are a few reasons:
- Rural Utilities Service approved
- Excellent current carrying capacity
- Lower weight per linear foot
- Durable and flexible
- Low impedance path
- Double the fatigue resistance of copper
Best of all, utilities can expect a minimum of a 10 percent savings versus the copper equivalent.
While a great deal of progress has been made in educating the marketplace of the benefits of GroundSmart, a few utilities still use solid copper for grounding their substations and poles. By installing a solution that has the same features as copper with zero-scrap value to thieves, I believe it is only a matter of time before solid copper grounding cable becomes a thing of the past.
During the upcoming TechAdvantage® Conference and Expo in New Orleans, this solution will be displayed at our booth (801). I encourage you to stop by to learn more about how GroundSmart can help protect your infrastructure.
So, the question is not, “Why would a utility install GroundSmart instead of solid copper,” but rather “Why not?”